Thanks to broad support from the community and state natural resources agencies, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has acquired a conservation easement on 272 acres of land on the Hazelton Farm in Hebron.
Under the conservation easement, the Hazelton family will continue to own the property, which will be protected from future development while remaining open to the public for recreational uses.
“The Forest Society took on the fundraising effort because the property’s natural resource values are off the charts,” said Brian Hotz, senior director of strategic projects for the Forest Society.
Both the Cockermouth River and Wise Brook course through it, and its conservation will protect not only those streams but also nearby Newfound Lake. Its upper reaches include forested hillsides of Crosby and Tenney mountains, and its lowlands offer fields and farmland
The property has such high conservation values that the project was awarded all six grants the Forest Society applied for in their entirety – something that rarely happens in land conservation.
“All the funders were very excited about this project,” said Martha Twombly, the Forest Society’s capital campaign specialist. She noted that some of that excitement stemmed from the property’s inclusion in several regional conservation plans, including the Newfound Lake Region Association’s watershed master plan.
Grants came from the John Gemmill Newfound Fund, the N.H. Fish and Game Dept., the Aquatic Resources Mitigation program of the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the State Conservation Committee Moose Plate grant and the N.H. Charitable Foundation-Lakes Region.
The project attracted strong support from local communities as well, with contributions from more than 300 individuals and organizations, including the Pemi-Baker Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Hebron Conservation Commission. “We’ve been thrilled with the outpouring of support,” Twombly said.
The great interest in the community for conserving the land came as a pleasant surprise to Paul and Mary Hazelton, who have lived for 40 years in the sheep barn they converted into a home on the property.
“We knew we loved this place and knew it was a wonderful place, but as time went on, we saw more and more that it was valuable to the community as well,” Paul Hazelton said.
Hazelton inherited the farm along with Paul’s brother Dave and his late brother John. The easement seemed an ideal way to protect the land while keeping it in the family and honoring their parents, Philip and Louise Hazelton, who bought it back into the family in 1951 and cherished it, Hazelton said.
“The primary motivation for us was to honor the wishes of our parents, who bought the ancestral property and managed to hang on there for so many years while we were growing up, which was a great experience but it wasn’t easy for them,” said Dave Hazelton, who now lives in Boise, Idaho.
The project emerged from the local work of the Newfound Land Conservation Partnership’s (NLCP) Land and Watershed committee, a subcommittee of the Newfound Lake Region Association. Made up of members from Newfound towns, and including representatives of the Society for the Protection of NH Forests and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, the committee sponsors local workshops and events to introduce landowners to land conservation options for water and wildlife resource values, estate planning, and for keeping lands in family ownership.
The Hazelton Farm is the sixth property that has been conserved through the Land and Watershed Committee’s efforts in the Newfound watershed since December 2011.
Committee member Jon Martin, a forester, is writing a forest stewardship plan for the diverse Hazelton forests. “Besides the great soils we have to work with, we’ve got a heavily involved landowner who wants to do what’s right by the forest,” Martin said. “If you’ve got good soils and a landowner willing to put in the time, you can really grow some high quality timber.”